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Year Three – The Final Call

My perception going into year three of my univeristy life is very much…different.

It will be impossible to say I’m looking at life at the same angle since year two, I’ve done so much in between. But I can only say its an advantage for I.  Over summer I have worked and then later travelled around the East of the States, not alone having two media jobs over Easter.

So now I enter year three, the final year, the last call. From now on my posts will be about the events I have been too, the work I am building and the experience I witness.

Professional Experience – Part 3. X and after

Now the highlight of my year and I think of my life so far was my next placement. I really cant think of anything else that beats it, it has been an amazing experience and one I will be entirely grateful for with the help and support of certain individuals that have helped and supported me in creating this opportunity to me. I don’t want to mention names, because they know who they are.

Working on the X Factor this year was surreal. I have to be very careful what I right for obvious reasons but the experience is one I will never forget. Not only did I enjoy myself every second of every long day but I learned so much. I did not know what to expect prior my placement dates, but how can you? This is the biggest show on TV on any calendar. But the people behind it all were magnificent, a dream. Teaching me everything they know, sharing there experiences and advising me on my future.

I do not want to go into to much detail due to the series not yet being broadcasted, but the people who make the show are unbelievable. It was nothing but privilege to watch and learn, let alone to take part and be a member of the team myself.

This experience for me has shown me a possible future for myself, a life after graduation. If it is the life after graduation, then I will be overwhelmed. To be part of this industry, of that team and to experience that on a day to day would be nothing sort of an honour.

My perspective on passion has totally changed. It had to, the only television I have been involved in was in the University studio and now I was part of the biggest show on television? It was surreal. But you learn so much from just observing people; you notice their characteristics, their attitude and how and why they perform so well. It was just an honour.

I promise to tell more stories of this particular adventure at a later date but I want to be careful and avoid any threat of trouble ill leak my self in too.

But what I can say is that after I return from America now is that my network has rapidly changed since November 2009. I have contacts of some of the most popular shows on British television, as well as creating the best impression for myself possible on the X factor to return in September, and relive the dream.

Professional Experience – Part 2. Mercia Radio

My first reply was from Mercia Radio (Coventry and Warwickshire). I was in broadcast, currently directing our production in the closing times of the production. Which basically means things were very hectic, time was weakening and to say the least, I did not expect the call. In fact because I was in the television studio, I had the weakest phone signal and network connection know to man. I still think to this day that I could of got better connection on top of Snowden. But Richard Neale, presenter of the drive home show kindly left a answer phone message for me to call back when please for a chat.

So I quickly did that, of course I had to – it was an opportunity in which as of yet, I have not had. I was ecstatic, and I didn’t even know what I had to! Im not the greatest phone speaker, never have been. My mouth goes dry and I may stutter, and that’s exactly what I did. But Rich was cool, we just arranged a ‘chat’ next week on Thursday at the studio. Brilliant! I have finally got somewhere, and with Mercia! The biggest radio station in Coventry.  I was still curious in the possible role I will be working as, but even so I was still in the honey moon of having my first response and first opportunity.

Thursday approach, I got suited and booted and arrived at the studio (10mintues early of course), and Richard met me by the door of the long building over shadowed by a Chinese Buffet, Rileys and a night club.  The proposition in which Richard had for me sounded great, in fact it was brilliant. I got to search websites, newspapers and adverts in order to create a daily guide. A guide for the people of Coventry in what to watch, what to see, what to do. A basic ‘what’s on’. This to me was a fantastic opportunity, I had a brilliant ‘producer’ role, creating a scripting for a popular show as well as learning more about radio and Richard presenting technique.

Over the next few weeks, I spent about 6 hours in the studio as well as producing work out of hours and I loved it! When I was there I slowly met the whole team, and they all seemed really nice. That’s what I thought was brilliant. The team were so close and in result, it was well functioned. As I created my weekly segments for Richard in which I learned more and more techniques on software such as Genesis, I then got to shadow Rich presenting a show. This was amazing. I was watching a live popular radio show. It was incredible to know how it works properly, but what struck me more was how natural it was to him.

I only learnt so much while studying radio at University, and in just a couple of sessions at Mercia, I already learned so much more. But then my role expanded over time, I helped out on the Breakfast show and took photos of Phil Taylor’s appearance at the studio as well as producing trending topics for Rich to talk about on the show.

This placement has taught me so much about radio but one of the surprising things in which I have developed was my passion for producing. I have discovered a love of looking for work, creating it for other people and then listening or seeing the outcome at the end and being satisfied with my efforts.  Working for Mercia was such a success for myself and Rich, I have continued working there ever since and look to return straight after my American trip in which I am from June – September.

Professional Experience – Part 1. The CV!

In the close of November 2009, I started to produce CV’s in order to apply for work experience at various media companies. This process sounds much more compact and lengthy than it sounds. It is one of the hardest and minds blowing experiences – there will always be a CV better than yours, so how do you make yours stand out?

A CV to me it a word document listing in a very formal and clean appearance of all the experiences you have done as well as all the things you have achieved academically. While creating a personal profile of you using words such as ‘creative’ and ‘unique’. The only unique thing about a CV is that there are hundreds of ones like yours.

But a media CV is different right? You can be that little more creative, that little bit more modern, attractive and funny. My first CV in which I drafted included everything I thought was an achievement life. My GCSE’s in which I to attend countless after school clubs for, my contribution to the local rugby team and my three year spell slaving away in a Comet warehouse. To me, these lengthy chunks of my life were CV worthy – but boy, I got corrected!

Meetings with my tutor to discuss the appearance of my CV along with its content caused me to leave the room basically creating a new one. It was kind of a shock to learn my GCSE’s were not worthy no more, my Comet employment was irrelevant and the rugby was pointless information. At least I didn’t put my paper round on; this may of caused an eyebrow to be raised.

You see, a CV is a document that has to sell you to the employer in a flash of a second. The reader just has to look at your CV and be attracted by it. By the end of month, I amended everything you could think of, even the things you can’t think of. Like the formation and design. The psychological aspect of making the readers eye look down the page by creating a pyramid style introduction.

After draft two, three, four…….twelve and thirteen. I reached a conclusion, the end, the CV in which I thought was perfect to be sent. It had a photo of myself smiling, a cheeky smile, but a smile you would love to see in your television studio. A smile that said ‘employ me, and I will be this happy and enthusiastic all the time. From 5am-12am. Which of course, I was.

The process for me now was to send it off. With this I occupied a cover letter stating my dates of potential work, a brief two line synopsis of myself and what my intentions from this placement.  A comfortable one page letter in a modern font, that wasn’t to much information, nor was it too little. Together I had thought I had created a dream team. How can one student go wrong with the perfect CV and a brilliant cover letter? Well, quite easy. You get no replies.

I couldn’t understand it. Why have I had no replies? I have spent £30 on stamps, sent off at least 40 letters and I have had no replies. So far my success ratio stood at 0:40. I was disappointed to say the least but there was still a chance. There was one thing in which I did not do which looking back now, was a schoolboy error, why did I not think off this before. A simple ‘Private and Confidential’ seemed the most logical thing – in which I forgot.

Christmas and New Year went and the new term was on the horizon. A perfect time I felt to send off a second batch of CVs. It just seemed logical. I could see it now. “It’s a new year, we need new runners”. So, another £25 of fine first class stamps and off they went. But this bundle of CVs seemed to have a little bit more of fairy dust sprinkled on them because the ratio of success to letters sent was 3:25. 2010 was set to be a good year…..

My CV image

Concluding 213mc (Section 3)

Personal Critical Reflection
A lot of the problems in which emerged with our group was largely based around effort, contribution, communication and preparation. Throughout of the module there has never been one group meeting apart from the opening meeting that occurred straight after being assigned into these groups that we have never had full attendance. The same people have failed to turn up constantly, and because we are a small group anyway, this has made the production very difficult. However through the remaining members including myself, Jess, Abbey, Jack and Rob Knowles and Dutton especially we have been able to construct the production together and not let these issues threaten our production. This module seems more independent than it should. I feel that because of the size of our group and the attendances in which we having, that a lot of the work was done by individual contribution.
Unique Contribution
This included the script, the character profiles, the shooting schedule and group meetings. I feel I contributed to the group to the maximum of my ability. Inputting a lot of my personal time to write the whole script and edit it until it became finalised as well as creating the characters and their histories for the show. In terms of teamwork, I felt my judgement and control was largely acceptable due to the definition of my role. I felt it was my duty to direct group through the production process and not just in through the recording sessions. I often to the lead on group meetings and tried to communicate with everyone respectively on a individual level rather than constantly communicating to everyone on a whole. This allowed me to build individual relationships between my production team and make my directorial intentions a lot clearer and precise – making my communication skills between the group as a team and independently as pristine and functioned. During this module I have always felt that I was not solely a director, but a range of roles. Including producer and scriptwriter. Although Jess and Abbey have been brilliant throughout the module, I felt because of the size of our group and the minimal communication that existed between members, that I have had to take the role of acting and producing more elements to the show rather than my directorial input.

Personal Development
The module this year has been a lot more challenging for me compared to last year. I felt that the brief was a lot stricter, which was understandable due to the progression in ability in which we should be for filling. But because I feel the stimulus has got harder, that I have been challenged as a director and as a team worker to the a new level. I have experienced greater worries this year than to last. This is due to our show being a different format, where last years was one live take, this year we have time to edit and perfect. Which adds a different type of pressure physically. Yes we don’t have to record in one take, but it also means that we are expected to polish our show. As a director it has been much more of a experience. I felt working on various locations such as corridors, inside the studio as well as the gallery was much more comforting. It allowed me to express my past experiences more where being in the gallery, its quite hard to convey your perspective.
Shooting this style of show has taught me a great amount. Researching various other shows from the past, present and over seas including radio and television have opened me up more to the world of broadcast and the non existent boundaries in which it contains. Last year we were very limited and as a first experience you are then focused on working in topical television, where this year being given that opportunity to have more flexibility about your production makes you think of more creative ways to succeed. In which I believe my self and my group have done. The idea came from myself and after researching a lot of American shows such as ‘Studio 60 on sunset strip’ or ‘Sports Night’ in which before I never knew of and I found that the genre was famous over there but in Britain it was extinct. Allowing for me to manipulate and interpretate the show a lot more for a British cultural audience. Thinking about how they would consume it including the language, the behaviour, the family relationships and the actions that take place within the pilot episode.
The module has defiantly opened me up to broadcast a lot more. Instead of being fixed minded on television I feel I am also suited to radio broadcast, after experience with Mercia FM and tutorials with Paul. However my heart still lies in directing. I feel I have improved a lot more in this role due to the experience in which this module has given me. I have had more freedom and aspect of creativity allowed for me to use rather than being focused on one particular genre, I have been allowed to explore and experiment with my ideas and directorial intentions. This applies to in the studio, in the script and filming off location. The module has a more free aspect to it in which I preferred and I think adapted to rather well. Although my group at some times looked weak and maybe less confident, that my belief and efforts in wanting to succeed and make this piece and my script come to life was largely due to the aspect of boundaries in which we was no longer tied too.
I was given the chance to explore my creativity as a director and this is what I preferred and think allowed me to feel more comfortable in the role.
My communication and leadership skills I have also improved. Although our group was not a large group, it was still a new group to me and a group that needed immediate directing; in meetings and in sessions. I felt my belief in the individual was much greater than last year. I knew a lot of people have improved in their technical, practical and theoretical aspects that helped the production a lot. It gave me the chance to talk to each individual about their ideas; each giving there perspective based on what they learned in which I collected to receive and realise the broad experience within the group. It was through my communication skills between the group in which was my strongest factor as the director.
I felt that my verbal and oral skills will at a maximum and it helped the production construct in the way it did. A production in which I am very proud to have written, produce and most of all, direct.

Thursday 11th March – Recording Session Two (Section 2)

After yesterday’s session going reasonably well, I went into today’s session full of confidence and enthusiasm that we would complete all the filming for our production. We were scheduled to be in the television 2-4pm. Although the group before us were scheduled to finish at 1pm and there was no group after us, meaning we could stay in there until 5pm. This gave us 4 hours to complete our production, what could go wrong?
We arranged at the group meeting to meet in the lobby for 11:30am, again allowing us extra time for me to confront the group of today’s agenda and for us to be fully prepared to enter the studio for 1pm and then the schedule would commence. Although I knew we could not have the contestants with us until 2pm, I arranged the shooting schedule the night before in which I wanted to present the group with in the morning.
11:30am – Group meeting
12:15pm – All Equipment taken out of loan shop ready for studio entry
12:30 – 1pm – Lunch
1pm – Enter studio, set up set and equipment
1:30pm – Record cameramen cameos
2pm – Record all studio footage with contestants
3pm – Record all Gallery material
3:30pm – Record opening scene
3:45pm – Finish Recording and pack away
4pm – Finish
To me this was a realistic and achievable schedule. I issued the group enough time to set up the studio (always takes longer to set up) and a healthy lunch break duration with also acceptable timings to shoot each scene.
However the problems started immediately for myself. As I arrived into the building at 11:25am, I was met by Tristan James who complained to me about our set being in the studio over night and causing issues for their and the other group. I accepted the reasons in why he was angry, it was our fault but more importantly it was the set designers fault. I did not pack away the studio last night, I am not the caretaker for the group, I am the director.
Instead I was recording the monologue with Jess and uploading photos of yesterdays session and left the others to take down the set so we could be out on time. So the day started badly and then got worst when I found out the current group in the studio who were scheduled to finish at 1pm were delayed due to a fire alarm going off, causing a 45-minute delay.
This delay then stretched to an hour, which was very frustrating and aggravating considering I had planned our schedule to start over 1 hour go. But issues like this happen and so I directed the group for the meeting at 11:30am. We discussed the current situation but I wanted to label to them that it will not affect us and that we can still complete the recordings. Of course this was hard to believe by some members of group and the optimism was running thin, but it was still running.
Instead I expressed that the plan would go ahead and that we would just extend the lunch break and allow the group to do what they please, but at 2pm we must be ready to enter the studio with instant pursuit.
The meeting itself went very well, I addressed the group of today’s plan and we went through the elements that we still needed to complete outside of studio recordings. This included web site work and blogging. We discussed that we needed photographs, video diaries and designs to be given to the web designers in order for them to complete the site and that if we can upload all footage to the facebook for individual logging purposes.
The photos have come out very well. I wanted the group to manipulate their character or their role into their portrait for their character portfolio for the web site. This will be where the audience can view certain characters history and biographies.
2pm approached and we were queuing up waiting to into the studio. Then at last, we were granted the all clear and I immediately insisted what needs doing however I was sure the group knew anyway. By half 2 we were all set up, the cameras were ready and the camera men were just going over their lines one last time. The reason I opted to shoot this scene first was because one of the contestants was not present, so instead of waiting around, I felt this scene could be filmed. However as soon as we started to film, she showed up which I think confused Karen on why we was not using contestants, it was because she was not present when we started and I wanted no time wasted.
This scene in particular did not take long to shoot, but it was difficult because I had to be in the gallery in the background as it was being filmed. Making me unaware on how it looked but I knew how it sounded as I listened through the talkback. After take 5, I think we got a decent enough take but I still wasn’t sure if it was exactly what I wanted. However, time was not with us on in this session so I discussed it with Jess and we felt we should move on and record the studio segments.
What was frustrating in filming this genre of show was that cameras had to be constantly set up and re-focused in order to get the multiple perspectives in which our show entitles. In total we used 5 DV tapes for the whole session. This included 1 tape for the 3 television cameras, 2 in additional cameras and then 2 extra tapes recording extra footage. It was a very complicated procedure but I felt considering this was actually our first session with a full gallery, set and contestants that it went rather well considering.
I was very impressed with the presenter’s performance compared to last week. Last week they were weak and unprepared and I think they knew that when we were rehearsing. This week however they were much stronger. They came prepared. They learned their lines and the script. Although they are not natural born actors, I was very grateful for their efforts over the past week in improving their camera performance. It defiantly payed off and was very clear that they had put in far more effort to the production this week.
Shooting the show was always expected to be the longest segment in terms of recording. Most of the script was set in the studio and the presenters could not hold their script like we could in the gallery and manipulate like we were holding the script from the show in which were recording. It got stressful a couple of times but this was expected as this was ‘filming day’. The contestants were great and we couldn’t of asked for better people to act as these characters for our performance. Although I was running around trying to make everything run perfect, I feel I did not thank the contestants enough for their contribution, I was truly grateful for their efforts and understanding.
The time approached 4pm and we had just finished shooting the studio segments, leaving the gallery elements still untouched. I think we completed these by 4:15pm. This was because we could use the script and disguise it as the shows script, meaning as long as we knew the lines roughly, we could act our way through and use the script to queue ourselves. A much simpler procedure. As was recording the opening scene with Jess. This took 15 minutes due to people walking past down the corridor but Jess’s performance was pristine and while we recorded this, the rest of the group packed away the studio. Meaning we were finished 5pm. Which looked very unlikely this morning but through individual contribution and team work efforts we achieved the agenda and completed our production. Leaving now for just postproduction to take place. Which with 5 DV tapes of footage, was going to be long effort, but however I was very much looking forward to the task and producing the finished output.
When I returned home late that evening, I opened my emails to finds Karens feedback. I was very pleased that she witnessed the efforts in making our show come together and fit the theme – which seemed to be a problem for the other groups. I did pick up on the contestants treatment however which after looking back, we should of hospitalised them a lot better, I instantly got in touch with them to apologise. However Karen mentioned that today’s session was the most stressful she had seen us perform. I agree with this but I think this was largely because of the sessions pressure to complete recordings. Which may have been to unrealistic but I would like to thank the group efforts for this session, I thought everyone was superb and my role was truly tested in this session. It was very difficult at time for me to direct as I could not always been visual at the scene to construct, but I think it worked and the group understood my intentions for the piece that helped a great deal. It really was a day that pushed my director boundaries, but I thought I performed well. I might ive seemed stressed at a few points but I recovered well and tried to set the best example to the others as I could. Resulting in a successful day of filming

Waiting to enter the studio

Setting up the studio

The Contestants

Production Team Functioning